On Friday evenings throughout the warm summer months, hundreds of locals in and around Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. head to the Museum of Coastal Carolina where the parking lot transforms into an outdoor concert area. Folks set up their lawn chairs, blankets and coolers and get ready to enjoy some good music.
On Aug. 12, the music will be especially fine as one of the area’s top beach music groups take the stage. Legends of Beach was originally formed in 2007 by a group of musicians most of whom happened to be former members of the legendary Embers band. They included vocalist Jackie Gore, known for his “I Love Beach Music” anthem for the genre; keyboard player Johnny Barker, a prolific songwriter responsible for such classics as “Summertime’s Calling Me;” guitarist Jeff Grimes; the extraordinary saxophonist and vocalist, C. Mark Black; and longtime bass player (and now band manager for Legends of Beach), Gerald Davis. Drummer Tony Davis, Rusty Smith (horns) and sound technician Steve Davis were also in the original lineup.
The band has undergone some changes in the past year. Jeff Grimes has returned to the Embers. Mark Black has also left the group, devoting more time to his East Coast Party Band. Both are huge talents, whose departures must have been felt to the core of the band.
But as they say, when one door closes another opens, and these exits were balanced by the addition of other topnotch players to the band.
For a time Gary Lowder of the Carolina Breakers was with the band to help fill in when Mark Black was not available. Since then, Terri Gore, the original “Carolina Girl” and daughter of Jackie Gore has joined; Nantucket saxman Eddie Blair has signed on; guitarist/ vocalist Pat Carpenter is now a full-time member; and so is trumpet player Ben Shaw. Not too shabby.
Gerald and I had a good long telephone conversation this past week, after a brief time out for a tornado warning in Wilson, N.C. where Gerald lives with his wife, Jane. We talked about his pre- and post-Embers life, the new players and what’s ahead for Legends of Beach.
Gerald’s got some great stories that I’d never heard before.
He was living in Riverside, Calif., playing in the house band for a joint called the Gas Company, right on the main drag. One night a young guitarist wanted in, and Gerald brought him up on stage. Forty years later, Gerald saw him again, this time at House of Blues. It was Sammy Hagar and the band was Van Halen.
“Your husband gave me a chance, got me up on stage,” Hagar told Gerald’s wife after the HOB show.
“I was shocked that he remembered me,” says Gerald. “I still have the bottle of Cabo Wabo Tequila he gave me.”
That house gig, by the way, helped land our young hero a singing contract with Liberty Records in
Hollywood. “I recorded two singles there with with the Jazz Crusaders; it was a big deal,” says Gerald.
A few years later, still in Riverside, he had a chance to meet one of the giants of Motown.
“There was a project, and I brought my old buddy from N.C. State, Donnie Weaver, lead singer for the Okaysions, out to California. We met Marvin Gaye, wound up at his house in Topanga Canyon and then went into A&M Studios to record.”
The album was never released, but they did get to work with Marvin Gaye. How cool is that?
In 1976, he moved back to Raleigh, N.C. and joined the Embers. Gerald figures he produced or co-produced a dozen albums for the Embers between 1979 and 2002.
After 31 years with the Embers, he left in 2007 to form Legends of Beach, and that brings us to the upcoming concert at Ocean Isle Beach.
I wanted to know what to expect.
“We haven’t changed our direction,” he tells me. “We still play the beach music our audiences love. And we love getting them involved. They’re there to have a good time.
“Of course, we have a female vocalist now, so that’s new for us.”
Terri Gore joined Legends of Beach on March 25 as a replacement for Gary Lowder. For anyone out of the Carolinas, she is a five-time Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year, and has also earned two Album of the Year awards, along with a Collaboration award with the Soft-Tones. She was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Just last year, she had four No. 1 hits on the beach charts, including “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” recorded with Legends of Beach before she even joined the band.
Her latest album is YBF on Forevermore Records. Terri is married to Daryl Lemonds, leader of the Sand Band.
“I’m like an old Motown singer. I like power vocals with an R&B groove,” Terri says.
How about singing with your dad, I wanted to know.
“We’re so fortunate to be able to do it together,” she says, genuinely excited. “My dad is just the best singer in this industry … in my opinion, of course. And audience response has been incredible.
“Legends of Beach is the most incredible thing I’ve ever been part of.”
Let me introduce you briefly to the other new members of the legendary Legends of Beach band.
Eddie Blair is a strong, strong presence in the horn section and as a soloist. I can’t wait to hear his Junior Walker thing. Pat Carpenter has that bluesy, soulful voice that just gets under your skin. Ben Shaw has played trumpet with The Fantastic Shakers, the Kays and the Castaways.
It’s going to be a perfect night at Ocean Isle Beach.
Fans of Carolina R&B love this event. The 19th Annual DJ Throwdown in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. is bringing 60-plus deejays to Ocean Drive along with three of the hottest beach bands around: Band of Oz, Legends of Beach and the Fantastic Shakers.
The fun takes place March 4 – 6 at Duck’s Beach Club on Main Street and the O.D. Beach Club where Main Street meets the beach.
Doors open at Ducks on Thursday night at 7:30 for a night of classic beach music. Tickets are $10 (Thursday night only). Band of Oz starts at 8 p.m., followed by Legends of Beach and ending with the Fantastic Shakers.
Although Band of Oz has been around in one form or another since the sixties, the current lineup showcases Scott Fine on vocals and trombone, Tim Morris on vocals and trumpet, and Daniel Morris on saxophone and vocals. They tour throughout the Carolinas, Va. and Ala. to sell-out crowds, and Ocean Drive will be no exception.
Typically, organizers bring in a national blues act for the middle slot. One year it was guitar whiz Debbie Davies. Last year harp man Mitch Kashmir came to town. For DJ Throwdown 2010, though, things have changed and I contacted deejay/organizer Butch Metcalf to find out why, but I haven’t heard back yet, and a deadline is a deadline is a deadline …
So, next up will be Legends of Beach, a topnotch beach band consisting mainly of former members of the Embers band. These guys are some of the best vocalists and musicians in beach music today. Jackie Gore is the personification of beach music. He wrote and sang the original classic “I Love Beach Music” with the Embers in 1979. R. Mark Black, another former Ember, brings soulful vocals and sax to the stage. Gerald Davis (bass), Jeff Grimes (guitar, sax) and Johnny Barker (keyboards) all include the Embers band on their resumes. You can expect an exciting set of classic R&B from this group.
Closing out Thursday night at Ducks are the Fantastic Shakers, who will keep the crowd movin’ and shakin’ into the wee hours. These guys are party animals and talented musicians to boot. Tunes like “Myrtle Beach Days” and “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” keep audiences singing along. I have yet to experience a Fantastic Shakers show when they weren’t “on.”
Of course, that’s just Thursday. For Friday and Saturday, deejays rule. They’ll be playing the old stuff, the new stuff, the sleepers, the breakout tunes, what’s hot, what’s obscure and everything in between. O.D. Beach Club will have deejays starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The club has announced it will be non-smoking for the weekend.
For more information, visit http://www.abscdj.com and click on the Ducks logo to download a flyer.